Turnaround as Tamworth welcomes diversity

A recent photo essay in the Guardian tells the stories of several families who are newcomers to Tamworth. The article notes the turnaround in the community’s attitude towards outsiders. It also celebrates the work of Multicultural Tamworth, an organisation which has been instrumental in creating greater understanding and appreciation of diversity through ‘open and honest discussion’.

In 2006 Tamworth attracted national criticism by voting down a proposal to re-settle five Sudanese families who were fleeing from war and persecution. However, the Guardian’s photo essay tells a different and very refreshing story. What’s more, Eddie Whitham, the founder of Multicultural Tamworth ~ an organisation with the ethos of being good “neighbours to newcomers” ~ says the region is now welcoming and celebrating diversity.

“Tamworth is very much home, a great community.” Says third-generation Fijian Indian, Shalini Pratap who moved to Tamworth in 2003.

 

Nicole Li, an engineering surveyor, arrived with her husband and 9-year-old son in 2014 on a skilled migrants visa. ““Coming from Beijing, we love the quiet and less-stressful lifestyle. We feel very free.”

 

Deborah Manyang moved to Tamworth in 2015 after spending time in the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya. “It’s safe here,” she says. “We can’t hear guns or see soldiers. We’re happy. It’s a new future for our children, they are adapting well and the local people have been very helpful.”

 

Tamworth cavalcade

Multicultural Tamworth and immigrant families took part in Tamworth’s country music festival for the first time this year, reflecting the change in attitudes.

 

This year’s Australia Day marked the changing attitude to multiculturalism in Tamworth when 37 Tamworth residents became Australian citizens.

Eddie Witham is working to see this trend continue.

 

“We need to find a common ground. It’s not going to work if we have isolated people. We want to make our town work. The hope is that this will become a natural thing ~ that there will be no us and them.”

 

Re-post ~ ‘Neighbours to newcomers’ ~ portraits from Tamworth by Lisa Maree Williams in The Guardian Australia

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